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The Hobbit

The Enchanting Prelude to The Lord of the Rings

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

The Hobbit is one of the greatest fantasy sagas of all time, a classic that has captivated generations of readers and is now an eagerly anticipated film by Peter Jackson, Academy Award–winning director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
 
When Thorin Oakenshield and his band of dwarves embark upon a dangerous quest to reclaim the hoard of gold stolen from them by the evil dragon Smaug, Gandalf the wizard suggests an unlikely accomplice: Bilbo Baggins, an unassuming Hobbit dwelling in peaceful Hobbiton.
 
Along the way, the company faces trolls, goblins, giant spiders, and worse. But as they journey from the wonders of Rivendell to the terrors of Mirkwood and beyond, Bilbo will find that there is more to him than anyone—himself included—ever dreamed. Unexpected qualities of courage and cunning, and a love of adventure, propel Bilbo toward his great destiny . . . a destiny that waits in the dark caverns beneath the Misty Mountains, where a twisted creature known as Gollum jealously guards a precious magic ring.

© New Line Productions, Inc. All rights reserved. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY and the names of the characters, items, events and places therein are trademarks of The Saul Zaentz Company d/b/a Middle-earth Enterprises under license to New Line Productions, Inc. 

Excerpt

AN UNEXPECTED PARTY

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats—the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill—The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it—and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden, and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.

This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and his name was Baggins. The Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained—well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.

The mother of our particular hobbit—what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off. They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colours (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can get it). Now you know enough to go on with. As I was saying, the mother of this hobbit—of Bilbo Baggins, that is—was the famous Belladonna Took, one of the three remarkable daughters of the Old Took, head of the hobbits who lived across The Water, the small river that ran at the foot of The Hill. It was often said (in other families) that long ago one of the Took ancestors must have taken a fairy wife. That was, of course, absurd, but certainly there was still something not entirely hobbitlike about them, and once in a while members of the Took-clan would go and have adventures. They discreetly disappeared, and the family hushed it up; but the fact remained that the Tooks were not as respectable as the Bagginses, though they were undoubtedly richer.

Not that Belladonna Took ever had any adventures after she became Mrs Bungo Baggins. Bungo, that was Bilbo’s father, built the most luxurious hobbit-hole for her (and partly with her money) that was to be found either under The Hill or over The Hill or across The Water, and there they remained to the end of their days. Still it is probable that Bilbo, her only son, although he looked and behaved exactly like a second edition of his solid and comfortable father, got something a bit queer in his make-up from the Took side, something that only waited for a chance to come out. The chance never arrived, until Bilbo Baggins was grown up, being about fifty years old or so, and living in the beautiful hobbit-hole built by his father, which I have just described for you, until he had in fact apparently settled down immovably.

By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous and prosperous, and Bilbo Baggins was standing at his door after breakfast smoking an enormous long wooden pipe that reached nearly down to his woolly toes (neatly brushed)—Gandalf came by. Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort of remarkable tale. Tales and adventures sprouted up all over the place wherever he went, in the most extraordinary fashion. He had not been down that way under The Hill for ages and ages, not since his friend the Old Took died, in fact, and the hobbits had almost forgotten what he looked like. He had been away over The Hill and across The Water on businesses of his own since they were all small hobbit-boys and hobbit-girls.

All that the unsuspecting Bilbo saw that morning was an old man with a staff. He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which his long white beard hung down below his waist, and immense black boots.

“Good morning!” said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.

“What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

“All of them at once,” said Bilbo. “And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain. If you have a pipe about you, sit down and have a fill of mine! There’s no hurry, we have all the day before us!” Then Bilbo sat down on a seat by his door, crossed his legs, and blew out a beautiful grey ring of smoke that sailed up into the air without breaking and floated away over The Hill.

“Very pretty!” said Gandalf. “But I have no time to blow smoke-rings this morning. I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

“I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them,” said our Mr Baggins, and stuck one thumb behind his braces, and blew out another even bigger smoke-ring. Then he took out his morning letters, and began to read, pretending to take no more notice of the old man. He had decided that he was not quite his sort, and wanted him to go away. But the old man did not move. He stood leaning on his stick and gazing at the hobbit without saying anything, till Bilbo got quite uncomfortable and even a little cross.

“Good morning!” he said at last. “We don’t want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water.” By this he meant that the conversation was at an end.

“What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!” said Gandalf. “Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won’t be good till I move off.”

“Not at all, not at all, my dear sir! Let me see, I don’t think I know your name?”

“Yes, yes, my dear sir—and I do know your name, Mr Bilbo Baggins. And you do know my name, though you don’t remember that I belong to it. I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me! To think that I should have lived to be good-morninged by Belladonna Took’s son, as if I was selling buttons at the door!”

“Gandalf, Gandalf! Good gracious me! Not the wandering wizard that gave Old Took a pair of magic diamond studs that fastened themselves and never came undone till ordered? Not the fellow who used to tell such wonderful tales at parties, about dragons and goblins and giants and the rescue of princesses and the unexpected luck of widows’ sons? Not the man that used to make such particularly excellent fireworks! I remember those! Old Took used to have them on Midsummer’s Eve. Splendid! They used to go up like great lilies and snapdragons and laburnums of fire and hang in the twilight all evening!” You will notice already that Mr Baggins was not quite so prosy as he liked to believe, also that he was very fond of flowers. “Dear me!” he went on. “Not the Gandalf who was responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad adventures? Anything from climbing trees to visiting elves—or sailing in ships, sailing to other shores! Bless me, life used to be quite inter—I mean, you used to upset things badly in these parts once upon a time. I beg your pardon, but I had no idea you were still in business.”

“Where else should I be?” said the wizard. “All the same I am pleased to find you remember something about me. You seem to remember my fireworks kindly, at any rate, and that is not without hope. Indeed for your old grandfather Took’s sake, and for the sake of poor Belladonna, I will give you what you asked for.”

“I beg your pardon, I haven’t asked for anything!”

“Yes, you have! Twice now. My pardon. I give it you. In fact I will go so far as to send you on this adventure. Very amusing for me, very good for you—and profitable too, very likely, if you ever get over it.”

“Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not today. Good morning! But please come to tea—any time you like! Why not tomorrow? Come tomorrow! Good-bye!” With that the hobbit turned and scuttled inside his round green door, and shut it as quickly as he dared, not to seem rude. Wizards after all are wizards.

“What on earth did I ask him to tea for!” he said to himself, as he went to the pantry. He had only just had breakfast, but he thought a cake or two and a drink of something would do him good after his fright.

Gandalf in the meantime was still standing outside the door, and laughing long but quietly. After a while he stepped up, and with the spike on his staff scratched a queer sign on the hobbit’s beautiful green front-door. Then he strode away, just about the time when Bilbo was finishing his second cake and beginning to think that he had escaped adventures very well.

The next day he had almost forgotten about Gandalf. He did not remember things very well, unless he put them down on his Engagement Tablet: like this: Gandalf Tea Wednesday. Yesterday he had been too flustered to do anything of the kind.

Just before tea-time there came a tremendous ring on the front-door bell, and then he remembered! He rushed and put on the kettle, and put out another cup and saucer, and an extra cake or two, and ran to the door.

“I am so sorry to keep you waiting!” he was going to say, when he saw that it was not Gandalf at all. It was a dwarf with a blue beard tucked into a golden belt, very bright eyes under his dark-green hood. As soon as the door was opened, he pushed inside, just as if he had been expected.

He hung his hooded cloak on the nearest peg, and “Dwalin at your service!” he said with a low bow.

“Bilbo Baggins at yours!” said the hobbit, too surprised to ask any questions for the moment. When the silence that followed had become uncomfortable, he added: “I am just about to take tea; pray come and have some with me.” A little stiff perhaps, but he meant it kindly. And what would you do, if an uninvited dwarf came and hung his things up in your hall without a word of explanation?

They had not been at table long, in fact they had hardly reached the third cake, when there came another even louder ring at the bell.

“Excuse me!” said the hobbit, and off he went to the door.

“So you have got here at last!” That was what he was going to say to Gandalf this time. But it was not Gandalf. Instead there was a very old-looking dwarf on the step with a white beard and a scarlet hood; and he too hopped inside as soon as the door was open, just as if he had been invited.

“I see they have begun to arrive already,” he said when he caught sight of Dwalin’s green hood hanging up. He hung his red one next to it, and “Balin at your service!” he said with his hand on his breast.

“Thank you!” said Bilbo with a gasp. It was not the correct thing to say, but they have begun to arrive had flustered him badly. He liked visitors, but he liked to know them before they arrived, and he preferred to ask them himself. He had a horrible thought that the cakes might run short, and then he—as the host: he knew his duty and stuck to it however painful—he might have to go without.

“Come along in, and have some tea!” he managed to say after taking a deep breath.

“A little beer would suit me better, if it is all the same to you, my good sir,” said Balin with the white beard. “But I don’t mind some cake—seed-cake, if you have any.”

“Lots!” Bilbo found himself answering, to his own surprise; and he found himself scuttling off, too, to the cellar to fill a pint beer-mug, and then to a pantry to fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel.

When he got back Balin and Dwalin were talking at the table like old friends (as a matter of fact they were brothers). Bilbo plumped down the beer and the cake in front of them, when loud came a ring at the bell again, and then another ring.

“Gandalf for certain this time,” he thought as he puffed along the passage. But it was not. It was two more dwarves, both with blue hoods, silver belts, and yellow beards; and each of them carried a bag of tools and a spade. In they hopped, as soon as the door began to open—Bilbo was hardly surprised at all.

“What can I do for you, my dwarves?” he said.

“Kili at your service!” said the one. “And Fili!” added the other; and they both swept off their blue hoods and bowed.

“At yours and your family’s!” replied Bilbo, remembering his manners this time.

“Dwalin and Balin here already, I see,” said Kili. “Let us join the throng!”

“Throng!” thought Mr Baggins. “I don’t like the sound of that. I really must sit down for a minute and collect my wits, and have a drink.” He had only just had a sip—in the corner, while the four dwarves sat round the table, and talked about mines and gold and troubles with the goblins, and the depredations of dragons, and lots of other things which he did not understand, and did not want to, for they sounded much too adventurous—when, ding-dong-a-ling-dang, his bell rang again, as if some naughty little hobbit-boy was trying to pull the handle off.

“Someone at the door!” he said, blinking.

“Some four, I should say by the sound,” said Fili. “Besides, we saw them coming along behind us in the distance.”

The poor little hobbit sat down in the hall and put his head in his hands, and wondered what had happened, and what was going to happen, and whether they would all stay to supper. Then the bell rang again louder than ever, and he had to run to the door. It was not four after all, it was five. Another dwarf had come along while he was wondering in the hall. He had hardly turned the knob, before they were all inside, bowing and saying “at your service” one after another. Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, and Gloin were their names; and very soon two purple hoods, a grey hood, a brown hood, and a white hood were hanging on the pegs, and off they marched with their broad hands stuck in their gold and silver belts to join the others. Already it had almost become a throng. Some called for ale, and some for porter, and one for coffee, and all of them for cakes; so the hobbit was kept very busy for a while.

A big jug of coffee had just been set in the hearth, the seed-cakes were gone, and the dwarves were starting on a round of buttered scones, when there came—a loud knock. Not a ring, but a hard rat-tat on the hobbit’s beautiful green door. Somebody was banging with a stick!

Bilbo rushed along the passage, very angry, and altogether bewildered and bewuthered—this was the most awkward Wednesday he ever remembered. He pulled open the door with a jerk, and they all fell in, one on top of the other. More dwarves, four more! And there was Gandalf behind, leaning on his staff and laughing. He had made quite a dent on the beautiful door; he had also, by the way, knocked out the secret mark that he had put there the morning before.

“Carefully! Carefully!” he said. “It is not like you, Bilbo, to keep friends waiting on the mat, and then open the door like a pop-gun! Let me introduce Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, and especially Thorin!”

“At your service!” said Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur standing in a row. Then they hung up two yellow hoods and a pale green one; and also a sky-blue one with a long silver tas- sel. This last belonged to Thorin, an enormously important dwarf, in fact no other than the great Thorin Oakenshield himself, who was not at all pleased at falling flat on Bilbo’s mat with Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur on top of him. For one thing Bombur was immensely fat and heavy. Thorin indeed was very haughty, and said nothing about service; but poor Mr Baggins said he was sorry so many times, that at last he grunted “pray don’t mention it,” and stopped frowning.

“Now we are all here!” said Gandalf, looking at the row of thirteen hoods—the best detachable party hoods—and his own hat hanging on the pegs. “Quite a merry gathering! I hope there is something left for the late-comers to eat and drink! What’s that? Tea! No thank you! A little red wine, I think for me.”

“And for me,” said Thorin.

“And raspberry jam and apple-tart,” said Bifur.

“And mince-pies and cheese,” said Bofur.

“And pork-pie and salad,” said Bombur.

“And more cakes—and ale—and coffee, if you don’t mind,” called the other dwarves through the door.

“Put on a few eggs, there’s a good fellow!” Gandalf called after him, as the hobbit stumped off to the pantries. “And just bring out the cold chicken and pickles!”

“Seems to know as much about the inside of my larders as I do myself!” thought Mr Baggins, who was feeling positively flummoxed, and was beginning to wonder whether a most wretched adventure had not come right into his house. By the time he had got all the bottles and dishes and knives and forks and glasses and plates and spoons and things piled up on big trays, he was getting very hot, and red in the face, and annoyed.

“Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!” he said aloud. “Why don’t they come and lend a hand?” Lo and behold! there stood Balin and Dwalin at the door of the kitchen, and Fili and Kili behind them, and before he could say knife they had whisked the trays and a couple of small tables into the parlour and set out everything afresh.

Gandalf sat at the head of the party with the thirteen dwarves all round: and Bilbo sat on a stool at the fireside, nibbling at a biscuit (his appetite was quite taken away), and trying to look as if this was all perfectly ordinary and not in the least an adventure. The dwarves ate and ate, and talked and talked, and time got on. At last they pushed their chairs back, and Bilbo made a move to collect the plates and glasses.

“I suppose you will all stay to supper?” he said in his politest unpressing tones.

“Of course!” said Thorin. “And after. We shan’t get through the business till late, and we must have some music first. Now to clear up!”

Thereupon the twelve dwarves—not Thorin, he was too important, and stayed talking to Gandalf—jumped to their feet, and made tall piles of all the things. Off they went, not waiting for trays, balancing columns of plates, each with a bottle on the top, with one hand, while the hobbit ran after them almost squeaking with fright: “please be careful!” and “please, don’t trouble! I can manage.” But the dwarves only started to sing:

Chip the glasses and crack the plates!

Blunt the knives and bend the forks!

That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates—

Smash the bottles and burn the corks!

Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!

Pour the milk on the pantry floor!

Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!

Splash the wine on every door!

Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl;

Pound them up with a thumping pole;

And when you’ve finished, if any are whole,

Send them down the hall to roll!

That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!

So, carefully! carefully with the plates!

And of course they did none of these dreadful things, and everything was cleaned and put away safe as quick as lightning, while the hobbit was turning round and round in the middle of the kitchen trying to see what they were doing. Then they went back, and found Thorin with his feet on the fender smoking a pipe. He was blowing the most enormous smoke-rings, and wherever he told one to go, it went—up the chimney, or behind the clock on the mantelpiece, or under the table, or round and round the ceiling; but wherever it went it was not quick enough to escape Gandalf. Pop! he sent a smaller smoke-ring from his short clay-pipe straight through each one of Thorin’s. Then Gandalf’s smoke-ring would go green and come back to hover over the wizard’s head. He had a cloud of them about him already, and in the dim light it made him look strange and sorcerous. Bilbo stood still and watched—he loved smoke-rings—and then he blushed to think how proud he had been yesterday morning of the smoke-rings he had sent up the wind over The Hill.

“Now for some music!” said Thorin. “Bring out the instruments!”

Kili and Fili rushed for their bags and brought back little fiddles; Dori, Nori, and Ori brought out flutes from somewhere inside their coats; Bombur produced a drum from the hall; Bifur and Bofur went out too, and came back with clarinets that they had left among the walking-sticks. Dwalin and Balin said: “Excuse me, I left mine in the porch!” “Just bring mine in with you!” said Thorin. They came back with viols as big as themselves, and with Thorin’s harp wrapped in a green cloth. It was a beautiful golden harp, and when Thorin struck it the music began all at once, so sudden and sweet that Bilbo forgot everything else, and was swept away into dark lands under strange moons, far over The Water and very far from his hobbit-hole under The Hill.

The dark came into the room from the little window that opened in the side of The Hill; the firelight flickered—it was April—and still they played on, while the shadow of Gandalf’s beard wagged against the wall.

The dark filled all the room, and the fire died down, and the shadows were lost, and still they played on. And suddenly first one and then another began to sing as they played, deep-throated singing of the dwarves in the deep places of their ancient homes; and this is like a fragment of their song, if it can be like their song without their music.

Far over the misty mountains cold

To dungeons deep and caverns old

We must away ere break of day

To seek the pale enchanted gold.

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,

While hammers fell like ringing bells

In places deep, where dark things sleep,

In hollow halls beneath the fells.

For ancient king and elvish lord

There many a gleaming golden hoard

They shaped and wrought, and light they caught

To hide in gems on hilt of sword.

On silver necklaces they strung

The flowering stars, on crowns they hung

The dragon-fire, in twisted wire

They meshed the light of moon and sun.

Far over the misty mountains cold

To dungeons deep and caverns old

We must away, ere break of day,

To claim our long-forgotten gold.

Goblets they carved there for themselves

And harps of gold; where no man delves

There lay they long, and many a song

Was sung unheard by men or elves.

The pines were roaring on the height,

The winds were moaning in the night.

The fire was red, it flaming spread;

The trees like torches blazed with light.

The bells were ringing in the dale

And men looked up with faces pale;

Then dragon’s ire more fierce than fire

Laid low their towers and houses frail.

The mountain smoked beneath the moon;

The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom.

They fled their hall to dying fall

Beneath his feet, beneath the moon.

Far over the misty mountains grim

To dungeons deep and caverns dim

We must away, ere break of day,

To win our harps and gold from him!

As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and a jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick. He looked out of the window. The stars were out in a dark sky above the trees. He thought of the jewels of the dwarves shining in dark caverns. Suddenly in the wood beyond The Water a flame leapt up—probably somebody lighting a wood-fire—and he thought of plundering dragons settling on his quiet Hill and kindling it all to flames. He shuddered; and very quickly he was plain Mr Baggins of Bag-End, Under-Hill, again.

He got up trembling. He had less than half a mind to fetch the lamp, and more than half a mind to pretend to, and go and hide behind the beer-barrels in the cellar, and not come out again until all the dwarves had gone away. Suddenly he found that the music and the singing had stopped, and they were all looking at him with eyes shining in the dark.

“Where are you going?” said Thorin, in a tone that seemed to show that he guessed both halves of the hobbit’s mind.

“What about a little light?” said Bilbo apologetically.

“We like the dark,” said all the dwarves. “Dark for dark business! There are many hours before dawn.”

“Of course!” said Bilbo, and sat down in a hurry. He missed the stool and sat in the fender, knocking over the poker and shovel with a crash.

“Hush!” said Gandalf. “Let Thorin speak!” And this is how Thorin began.

“Gandalf, dwarves and Mr Baggins! We are met together in the house of our friend and fellow conspirator, this most excellent and audacious hobbit—may the hair on his toes never fall out! all praise to his wine and ale!—” He paused for breath and for a polite remark from the hobbit, but the compliments were quite lost on poor Bilbo Baggins, who was wagging his mouth in protest at being called audacious and worst of all fellow conspirator, though no noise came out, he was so flummoxed. So Thorin went on:

“We are met to discuss our plans, our ways, means, policy and devices. We shall soon before the break of day start on our long journey, a journey from which some of us, or perhaps all of us (except our friend and counsellor, the ingenious wizard Gandalf) may never return. It is a solemn moment. Our object is, I take it, well known to us all. To the estimable Mr Baggins, and perhaps to one or two of the younger dwarves (I think I should be right in naming Kili and Fili, for instance), the exact situation at the moment may require a little brief explanation—”

This was Thorin’s style. He was an important dwarf. If he had been allowed, he would probably have gone on like this until he was out of breath, without telling any one there anything that was not known already. But he was rudely interrupted. Poor Bilbo couldn’t bear it any longer. At may never return he began to feel a shriek coming up inside, and very soon it burst out like the whistle of an engine coming out of a tunnel. All the dwarves sprang up, knocking over the table. Gandalf struck a blue light on the end of his magic staff, and in its firework glare the poor little hobbit could be seen kneeling on the hearth-rug, shaking like a jelly that was melting. Then he fell flat on the floor, and kept on calling out “struck by lightning, struck by lightning!” over and over again; and that was all they could get out of him for a long time. So they took him and laid him out of the way on the drawing-room sofa with a drink at his elbow, and they went back to their dark business.

“Excitable little fellow,” said Gandalf, as they sat down again. “Gets funny queer fits, but he is one of the best, one of the best—as fierce as a dragon in a pinch.”

If you have ever seen a dragon in a pinch, you will realize that this was only poetical exaggeration applied to any hobbit, even to Old Took’s great-grand-uncle Bullroarer, who was so huge (for a hobbit) that he could ride a horse. He charged the ranks of the goblins of Mount Gram in the Battle of the Green Fields, and knocked their king Golfimbul’s head clean off with a wooden club. It sailed a hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit-hole, and in this way the battle was won and the game of Golf invented at the same moment.

In the meanwhile, however, Bullroarer’s gentler descendant was reviving in the drawing-room. After a while and a drink he crept nervously to the door of the parlour. This is what he heard, Gloin speaking: “Humph!” (or some snort more or less like that). “Will he do, do you think? It is all very well for Gandalf to talk about this hobbit being fierce, but one shriek like that in a moment of excitement would be enough to wake the dragon and all his relatives, and kill the lot of us. I think it sounded more like fright than excitement! In fact, if it had not been for the sign on the door, I should have been sure we had come to the wrong house. As soon as I clapped eyes on the little fellow bobbing and puffing on the mat, I had my doubts. He looks more like a grocer than a burglar!”

Then Mr Baggins turned the handle and went in. The Took side had won. He suddenly felt he would go without bed and breakfast to be thought fierce. As for little fellow bobbing on the mat it almost made him really fierce. Many a time afterwards the Baggins part regretted what he did now, and he said to himself: “Bilbo, you were a fool; you walked right in and put your foot in it.”

“Pardon me,” he said, “if I have overheard words that you were saying. I don’t pretend to understand what you are talking about, or your reference to burglars, but I think I am right in believing” (this is what he called being on his dignity) “that you think I am no good. I will show you. I have no signs on my door—it was painted a week ago—, and I am quite sure you have come to the wrong house. As soon as I saw your funny faces on the door-step, I had my doubts. But treat it as the right one. Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from here to the East of East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert. I had a great-great-grand-uncle once, Bullroarer Took, and—”

“Yes, yes, but that was long ago,” said Gloin. “I was talking about you. And I assure you there is a mark on this door—the usual one in the trade, or used to be. Burglar wants a good job, plenty of Excitement and reasonable Reward, that’s how it is usually read. You can say Expert Treasure-hunter instead of Burglar if you like. Some of them do. It’s all the same to us. Gandalf told us that there was a man of the sort in these parts looking for a Job at once, and that he had arranged for a meeting here this Wednesday tea-time.”

“Of course there is a mark,” said Gandalf. “I put it there myself. For very good reasons. You asked me to find the fourteenth man for your expedition, and I chose Mr Baggins. Just let any one say I chose the wrong man or the wrong house, and you can stop at thirteen and have all the bad luck you like, or go back to digging coal.”

He scowled so angrily at Gloin that the dwarf huddled back in his chair; and when Bilbo tried to open his mouth to ask a question, he turned and frowned at him and stuck out his bushy eyebrows, till Bilbo shut his mouth tight with a snap. “That’s right,” said Gandalf. “Let’s have no more argument. I have chosen Mr Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself. You may (possibly) all live to thank me yet. Now Bilbo, my boy, fetch the lamp, and let’s have a little light on this!”

On the table in the light of a big lamp with a red shade he spread a piece of parchment rather like a map.

“This was made by Thror, your grandfather, Thorin,” he said in answer to the dwarves’ excited questions. “It is a plan of the Mountain.”

“I don’t see that this will help us much,” said Thorin disappointedly after a glance. "I remember the Mountain well enough and the lands about it. And I know where Mirkwood is, and the Withered Heath where the great dragons bred."
J.R.R. Tolkien

About J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien - The Hobbit
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3rd, 1892 in South Africa. Tolkien was educated and taught Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University. Tolkien's other works include The Hobbit and The Simarillion, which are both available on audio from Random House.
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide



NOTE TO TEACHERS

(Scroll to the bottom of this page to download a PDF version of this teacher's guide.)

To download the YMI (Young Minds Inspired) Lesson Plans, go to:
http://ymiclassroom.com/lesson-plans/hobbit/


J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit is a classic book, both because it is a simply written and fast-paced adventure story and because it is set in Middle-earth, one of the great fantasy worlds in English literature. The success of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy and other fantasy epics, such as George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones novels (which have also been made into an acclaimed HBO television series), has renewed student interest in the high fantasy of Tolkien's works. Peter Jackson's cinematic interpretation of The Hobbit will be divided into two films with scheduled release dates of December 2012 and December 2013.

Teachers are encouraged to teach The Hobbit as the cornerstone text in a standards-based unit examining how myths, legends, and folktales influence world building in works of fantasy, and how the motifs of the hero and the quest are developed in great literature. Tolkien's work pairs well with both classics of antiquity (for example, The Odyssey) as well as contemporary epics (for example, the Harry Potter novels, Star Wars, and The Hunger Games) for comparison and analysis.

The Hobbit'
s chapters are each between seven and twenty-five pages long. Dividing the book into the following eight sections provides reading assignments that are fairly uniform in length and correspond to natural divisions in the story:
 
• Chapter 1: 27 pages
• Chapters 2–4: 26 pages
• Chapters 5–6: 43 pages
• Chapters 7–8: 58 pages
• Chapters 9–10: 30 pages
• Chapters 11–13: 44 pages
• Chapters 14–16: 28 pages
• Chapters 17–19: 30 pages
 
This teacher's guide provides a resource for integrating The Hobbit within Common Core State Standards-based curriculum. The guide includes biographical and critical backgrounds on Tolkien's work, suggested writing and research prompts that link the text to source materials, and four or five sections that provide a comprehensive framework for understanding each chapter, including:
 
• plot summary,
• comprehension and open-ended topics for class discussion (many of these topics can be extended beyond one chapter),
• vocabulary items,
• at selected places, critical essays explaining literary conventions and major themes.



ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in 1892 in Bloemfontein, South Africa, where his father was a bank manager. At the age of three, Ronald's poor health led his mother to move with him and his brother, Hilary, back to England, where they settled in Sarehole, a county village on the outskirts of Birmingham. His father died soon after, and his mother died when he was twelve. His early education was at King Edward's School in Birmingham, where he showed promise in languages and Old English literature. During his last years at St. Edward's, Tolkien fell in love with Edith Bratt, also an orphan, and formed close friendships—and an informal literary society—with several of his schoolfellows.
 
In 1911, he entered Exeter College, Oxford, and received a First Class Honours degree in English in 1915. Immediately after graduation he entered the army. In 1916, he married Edith and was shipped to France as World War I raged. After four months on the front lines he was stricken with trench fever and sent home.
 
After the war, he joined the staff of the Oxford English Dictionary (writing entries in the Ws), taught at Leeds University, and was elected to a chair in Anglo-Saxon at Oxford.
 
"And after this, you might say, nothing else really happened. Tolkien came back to Oxford, was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon for twenty-years, was then elected Merton Professor of English Language and Literature, went to live in a conventional Oxford suburb where he spent the first part of his retirement, moved to a nondescript seaside resort, came back to Oxford after his wife died, and himself died a peaceful death at the age of eighty-one. . . . And that would be that—apart from the strange fact that during these years when 'nothing happened' he wrote two books which have become world best-sellers, books that have captured the imagination and influenced the thinking of several million readers."1
 
The creation of Middle-earth, which occupied Tolkien for sixty years, can be divided into three stages. The first stage, begun at the St. Edward's School, involved first the creation of languages and then the development of a series of legends that could give these languages a social context in which to develop. These legends soon became important in their own right, a mythic cycle that combined Christian and pagan (especially Germanic and Celtic) sources to provide England with a national mythology that would express the English spirit as the Edda does for Scandinavia and the Kalevala does for Finland. As Tolkien put it:
 
"I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story—the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing splendor from the vast backcloths—which I could dedicate simply: to England; to my country. . . . I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama."2
 
The death in World War I of most of his St. Edward's friends apparently firmed Tolkien's resolution, and after twenty years, he had elaborated several languages, a cosmology, and large parts of The Silmarillion, high heroic tales (written in verse and prose, English and Elvish) of the fall of the angelic Melkor and the futile struggles of men and elves against him.
 
As a diversion from these weighty labors, Tolkien composed stories and sketches for his own children. About 1930, one of these beginning with the idle sentence "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit," became more and more involved as Tolkien defined hobbits and created adventure for one particular hobbit. Gradually it became clear to Tolkien that Bilbo Baggins's adventures took place in the same Middle-earth as his high heroic tales, but during a much later era. After six years of intermittent composition, The Hobbit was published as a children's book to critical and popular acclaim. Immediately Tolkien began work on The Lord of the Rings, published in 1954–55 after years of painstaking revision. In many ways a reworking of the plot of The Hobbit, the length, intensity, and complex theses of the Rings trilogy make it the adult epic Tolkien desired to create. Although its reputation was slow to grow, the paperback publication of the trilogy in the mid-sixties established the enormous fame of Middle-earth and its creator.
 
There can be no question that the great popular success of Middle-earth is due to the labors and spirit of its creator. The creation of an accomplished storyteller, linguist, poet, and painter, Middle-earth's depths and plausibility are unmatched in modern fantasy; its reworking of the common ground of Norse, Celtic, and Judeo-Christian tradition is based in Tolkien's belief in the importance and perfectibility of man.
 
Although its most striking creatures are noble elves, evil goblins, proud dwarves, cunning dragons, wizards, Eagles, and demons, the most important race in Middle-earth is men, for whose creation and salvation Middle-earth is prepared. The men of Middle-earth, free to choose their own destinies, run the full gamut from demonic evil and goblin-like depravity to a purity and integrity equaling that of the noblest elves. The contrast between goblins and elves provides one of the most important measures of good and evil in Middle-earth. The Silmarillion tells that elves, the Elder Children of God, were created to guide men, the Younger Children, on the long journey to spiritual wisdom and love of God. Goblins, in contrast, are corrupted elves, bred in mockery of Morgoth, the Necromancer's master, whose revolt against God brings evil to Middle-earth. Thus Bard's ability to learn restraint from the Elven king is an important sign of his virtue, and Bilbo's love of elves indicates
his spiritual grace.
 
Where the elves serve as a model for men's aspirations, hobbits provide a touchstone. Their lives display a basic goodness, a conservative, pastoral simplicity. Close to Nature and free from personal ambition and greed, hobbits need no government and are generally anti-technology. Rarely corrupted, they never corrupt others. The hobbits' Shire is a quiet backwater, removed both from the agonies and the high destiny of men, whether in Middle-earth or the twentieth century. The Shire is, for Tolkien, a mirror in which we can see reflected the simple peace at the center of our hearts.

__________________________________
1 Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien: A Biography. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1978), p.124.
2 Carpenter, pp.100–101.


TEACHING IDEAS

Before you read

Ask students to generate a list of science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal works with which they are familiar. Allow them to include books, video games, movies, and television shows. Discuss the following questions as a class:

• Out of the three, do you have a favorite genre? Why do you think it appeals to you?

• How are works of fantasy similar to works of science fiction and the paranormal? What elements make the genre of fantasy unique?

• What kind of source materials do you think authors of fantasy might draw upon to create their imagined worlds?

• Over the past decade there has been an explosion in the popularity of nonrealistic genres. Why do you think fantasy has such a strong appeal for students of your generation?

Depending on the reading level of students, teachers may wish to assign Tolkien's essay "On Fairy Stories." (A link is provided in the "For Further Reading/Helpful Links" section at the end of this guide.) A critical essay summarizing Tolkien's essay is included for your convenience:

Critical Essay: The Uses of Fantasy

Good fantasy offers the possibility of active, serious participation by the reader in an imagined world, which heightens one's sense of Self and Other. This participation depends not only on the reader's intentions but also on the moral plausibility of the fantasy world. The reward for this participation is a sense of wonder that enables the reader to return to the "real" world with enhanced understanding and appreciation—either of the world itself or of his relation to it.
 
In Tolkien's view, expressed in his influential essay "On Fairy Stories" (written in 1939 as he was beginning The Lord of The Rings), fantasy has an important positive function. In this subtle and somewhat diffuse essay, Tolkien asserts that this can be an escape to a serious Secondary World (or "sub-creation") as much as an escape from the Primary World of reality.
 
For a Secondary World to be serious, it must first arouse enchantment, or Secondary Belief. Where Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief" is an exercise in which the critical intellect is made passive while the emotions are given free play, Secondary Belief is an active and integrative process by which the audience perceives the Secondary World to possess "the inner consistency of reality," to be as true—on its own terms—as the Primary World. The Secondary World must be created for Art, not Magic—as a wonder in itself, not with the pretense of altering the Primary World or the reader's status in it. Any type of wonder is acceptable, but Tolkien asserts that the act of serious sub-creation inevitably reflects the primary creation, so that even when its objects and inhabitants are marvelous, the values and aspirations of a Secondary World are familiar.
 
Thus, a fantasy world is inevitably a mirror of our own world, and Tolkien explains the nature of this mirror using four terms: Recovery, Escape, Consolation, and Eucatastrophe. The sense of wonder aroused by Secondary Belief is not a discovering of the exotic but a Recovery of the familiar, the "regaining of a clear view" of the objects of the Primary World freed from the taints of anxiety, triteness, and above all, possessiveness. In a Secondary World, our sense of wonder should extend not only to "the centaur and the dragon" but also "like the ancient shepherds," to "sheep, and dogs, and horses—and wolves,"3 and on our return to the Primary World, we may retain some of that wonder and appreciation. At the same time as it offers an Escape to renewed significance, fantasy offers Escape from things worth fleeing: the petty evils of tawdriness and ugliness; the "grim and terrible" evils of "hunger, thirst, poverty, pain, sorrow, injustice, death"; and, on a more positive note, the "ancient limitations" on worthy desires such as "the desire to converse with other living things."4 The fulfillment of these Escapes is one of the Consolations of the Happy Ending. In its best form, the happy ending is a Eucatastrophe, an unexpected turning of the plot, "sudden and miraculous . . . never to be counted on to recur." Fantasy admits the possibility of failure, sorrow, and death, but "it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat... giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief."5
 
A complementary view of fantasy is offered by the child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim in The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. Bettelheim accepts Tolkien's view, and indeed, borrows much of his terminology. But where Tolkien as author stresses the art of sub-creation and the recovery of wonder, Bettelheim as therapist emphasizes the use of fantasy to teach children about the Primary World and to encourage personal development. For Bettelheim, "the fairy-tale is future oriented and guides the child—in terms he can understand in both his conscious and his unconscious mind—to relinquish his infantile dependency wishes and achieve a more stratifying independent existence."6 The wish-fulfillment element of fantasy both relieves anxiety and shows the child that personal success can be obtained, although at a certain price. At the heart of this lesson is the fact that the hero must work for his success. Magic accessories and good advice may be given to him, but he must use these aids actively and appropriately, and success often comes only after years of obscure labor or initial failure. Thus, the development of the hero is less a matter of change than of self-discovery.

_____________________________________
3 J. R. R. Tolkien, "On Fairy Stories," in Tree and Leaf, reprinted in The Tolkien Reader.
(New York: Ballantine Books, 1966), p. 57.
4 Tolkien, pp. 57–58.
5 Tolkien, p. 68.
6 Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.
(New York: Vintage Books, 1979), p.11.


DISCUSSION AND WRITING

Chapter One: "An Unexpected Party"
 
Summary

We are introduced to hobbits and to Bilbo Baggins, a stay-at-home, highly respectable hobbit with a secret desire for adventure. Bilbo receives a visit from Gandalf the wizard. The next Wednesday Gandalf returns for tea, bringing with him a party of thirteen dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield. Despite misgivings on both sides, on Gandalf's recommendation the dwarves hire Bilbo as Burglar on an expedition to the Lonely Mountain, where they plan to recover their ancestral treasure from the dragon Smaug.
 
Comprehension Questions

What is Gandalf's reputation? How involved do you expect him to be during the adventure?

What kind of mark does Gandalf put on Bilbo's door?

How many dwarves come to tea?

What does Thorin wear to distinguish himself from the other dwarves?

What two things does Gandalf give Thorin?

How did the dwarves lose their treasure and kingdom?
 
Vocabulary
 
audacious (p. 16)         legendary (p. 22)            remuneration (p. 22)

rune
(p. 20)                obstinately (p. 22)          necromancer (p. 26)

abreast
(p. 20)            prudent (p. 22)

Discussion and Essay Topics

What does the word hobbit make you think of? (Note: The possibilities include rabbit, hobby, Babbit, habit, and hob. The word is probably best seen as a blend of rabbit and hob, an obsolete British word meaning "a rustic, peasant" or "sprite, elf.") How does Bilbo resemble a rabbit in this chapter? When you finish the book, ask yourself if he still reminds you of one.

What is an adventure? Is it something that happens, or is it the way we react to what happens? Can we live without adventures? What is "magic"? Is there any "magic" in this book? (Return to these questions as the book progresses.)
 
Explain all the meanings of good morning (pp. 4–5).
 
What about adventures awakens Bilbo's Tookish side (pp. 15–16)? What causes his Baggins side to reemerge (pp. 16, 27)? Explain the difference between Bilbo's Tookish side and his Baggins side. Can you relate to Bilbo's feelings of ambivalence? Do you think everyone has similar "Tookish" and "Baggins" sides to their personalities?
 
Even this early in the book, we can see some of the characteristics of dwarves, wizards, and dragons. Begin generating a list of the characteristics—both physical and character traits—of each of the magical creatures in The Hobbit. After you finish the book, you'll have an opportunity to compare Tolkien's descriptions with similar magical beings in other works of literature.
 
Critical Commentary: Entering a Fantasy World

A fantasy novel must offer two things: an attractive fantasy world and a point of contact between the fantasy world and our own. What readers find attractive is a matter of personal taste, but they are likely to discard a fantasy as irrelevant unless they can find a common perspective from which to assess the attractiveness. In general, these common perspectives are established in one of three ways: the main character is transported from our world into the fantasy world (like Alice in Wonderland); the main character is a native of the fantasy world with whom the reader can easily identify; or the fantasy world is fundamentally like ours, differing only in specific details. American teenagers will not automatically identify with a fussy English country squire like Bilbo, so the success of The Hobbit depends on a tension between familiar and exotic things, which must be established in the first few pages.
 
The opening of the first sentence, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit," introduces a strange creature and an apparently unattractive setting. But the next paragraphs belie this initial reaction. Hobbits love comfort in much the same way we do: they are fond of visitors, food, and clothing; they have families and relatives; some are richer than others—in short, they are very human. By the fourth paragraph hobbits seem normal, and other folk—dwarves, fairies, and Big People—are strange. From here on, adventures take place in a world beyond Bilbo's doorstep, a world that seems as strange to him as it does to us. We share not only his sense of wonder, but also the values that make him love his home.
 
Chapter 2: "Roast Mutton"
 
Summary

Thorin and company set off on their expedition, and Bilbo joins them. Initially things go well, but on the first rainy night they seek shelter and blunder into three trolls. Bilbo and the dwarves are captured by the trolls, but Gandalf outwits them and they turn to stone at daybreak. The expedition plunders the trolls' hoard. Gandalf and Thorin take swords, Bilbo takes a small knife, and they bury the trolls' gold.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
What are the terms of Bilbo's contract? Do you think they are fair terms?
 
How does Bilbo know that the three people are trolls? Can you think of any other stories (especially children's stories and fairy tales) you know about trolls? How are Tolkien's trolls similar to trolls in other stories? How are they different? Add trolls to the list of magical creatures that you started after the first chapter.

How is Bilbo caught? What lesson do you think he should learn as a result of his capture?
 
How does Gandalf rescue Bilbo and the dwarves?
 
What do they take from the trolls' hoard?
 
Vocabulary
 
esteemed (p. 29)         paraphernalia (p. 30)        applicable (p. 37)

Discussion and Essay Topics

Begin paying close attention to the way that Tolkien uses the presence and absence of the character of Gandalf to develop both the plot and the character of Bilbo Baggins. Why is it important that Gandalf is not present when the expedition meets the trolls?

Myths, legends, and folktales often reflect the values of a given culture. At this point in the story, what can you infer about the character traits that Tolkien considers positive? What character traits are viewed in a negative light? What is more important at this point: intelligence or physical strength?
 
Critical Commentary: Quests and the Development of the Hero
 
The Hobbit follows the typical pattern of the quest in many ways. Like most quest heroes, Bilbo begins the story ignorant and untried, and he undergoes a series of preliminary adventures, which help him in two ways. First, they give him the opportunity to learn about the world and the extent and proper use of his own powers. Second, they bring him the friends and talismans that he will need to prevail in his greatest adventure: the culmination of his quest.
 
Because in a well-constructed quest story the development of wisdom and self-restraint is equally as important as the growth of physical prowess, the quest story (as Bettelheim points out in The Uses of Enchantment) is often concerned with maturation, and the lessons it teaches are those of adulthood. The specific moral of an individual quest story can usually be found by examining two areas: the hero's motivation for acting, and the final reward he achieves. The most obvious indication of a hero's development—the skills he acquires—can be misleading, for most quest stories are concerned more with virtue (which can be defined as the proper application of whatever skills or powers are available) than with the skills themselves. Bilbo, for example, never becomes a "hero" in the conventional sense. In part this is because he accepts the fact that he is too small to become a warrior, but more importantly it is because he deplores violence and lacks ambition for power.
 
While the ending of The Hobbit—in which Bilbo finds that each assumed culminating adventure in fact leads to further complications—is a variation on the typical quest pattern, Bilbo's journey to Erebor is a skillful realization of this pattern. Throughout the story, the best way to evaluate Bilbo's development is by comparing him to the dwarves. At this point (Chapter 2), Bilbo's only skill is his stealth. He is as easily disheartened by rain and discomfort as the dwarves, and his attempt to steal the troll's purse, like his original decision to come on the expedition, is motivated by an irrational pride. Still, as a reward for surviving the adventure and finding the trolls' key, Bilbo receives the first of two talismans: his short sword. Gandalf's role in all this is crucial. As Bilbo's mentor, he reserves his power for situations that Bilbo cannot yet—or ever—deal with. Rescue by Gandalf is therefore a sign of Bilbo's lack of skill or knowledge. Bilbo's conduct during later adventures, when Gandalf is not present, will show how much he has progressed. 
 
Chapter 3: "A Short Rest"
 
Summary
 
The expedition comes to Rivendell, where Elrond and his elves live in the Last Homely House. Elrond explains Thrór's Map to the dwarves and identifies Gandalf's and Thorin's swords as the famous blades Orcrist and Glamdring, made by elves for the ancient goblin wars.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
Why is Rivendell hard to find?
 
Read pages 46–48. Based on the imagery that Tolkien uses to describe the forest, what sort of creatures do you think live there?
 
Who are the enemies of the elves?
 
What important discovery does Elrond make regarding Thorin's map? What does it suggest about Thorin that he owns the map for years and never notices what Elrond notices right away?
 
When is Durin's Day? What is significant about this day as it relates to Bilbo's quest?

Bilbo notices that it "smells like elves" when they are near the Last Homely House. Based on Bilbo's experience with Elrond and the other elves, what do you think elves might smell like?

Vocabulary
 
drear (p. 45)                     faggot (p. 48)                 palpitating (p. 51)
 
glade (p. 48)                     bannock (p. 48)                   cleave (p. 52)
 
Discussion and Essay Topics
 
What is the difference between the ways Bilbo and the dwarves react to Rivendell? How does Elrond feel about the expedition, and what does he say about the dwarves' love of gold and the wickedness of dragons? What values are important to the elves?
 
Elrond plays a significant role in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. How does the way that Tolkien introduces him help set up his importance in later stories? How does this sort of backstory contribute to Tolkien's world building?
 
Research the tradition of naming weapons in classical myths and legends. Why might it be significant for Tolkien to have given the elves named swords? What message do you think is conveyed by the names given to the swords?
 
Chapter 4: "Over Hill and Under Hill"
 
Summary
 
As they cross the Misty Mountains, a storm drives the expedition into a cave, where they are attacked by goblins. Bilbo and the dwarves are captured and driven into the goblins' underground halls. There Gandalf rescues them and slays the Great Goblin, but as they flee from the goblins, Bilbo is knocked unconscious.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
Why does the expedition take shelter in the cave?
 
Why isn't Gandalf captured?
    
What do goblins usually do with their prisoners?
 
How does Gandalf rescue Bilbo and the dwarves?
 
Vocabulary
 
deception (p. 55)             quaff (p. 61)           inconveniencing (p. 63)
 
shirk (p. 61)                   ingenious (p. 62)      gnash (p. 63)
 
Discussion and Essay Topics
 
What does Tolkien tell us about goblins? Why do you think he does not give specific details about their appearance? Discuss what you think goblins look like, and explain which details in the book give you that idea.
 
Discuss the role that music plays in the development of the different magical beings. Compare the songs sung by the dwarves (pp. 14–15), the elves (pp. 48–49), and the goblins (pp. 60–61). How do the songs differ in tone, content, and structure? What do the tone, content, and structure of their songs reveal about the creatures that sing them?
 
Consider the following quote: "It is not unlikely that they [goblins] invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once" (p. 62). Can you take this statement seriously? What is Tolkien suggesting by linking his fantasy world to the reader's modern world? What commentary is he making about the use of military technology?
 
Chapter 5: "Riddles in the Dark"
 
Summary
 
Lost and alone in the Misty Mountains, Bilbo gathers his courage. He finds a ring and puts it in his pocket. Then he encounters Gollum, a loathsome but pathetic creature. They play a riddle-game to determine if Gollum will show Bilbo the way out or eat him instead. Bilbo wins the contest, but Gollum then realizes that Bilbo has his ring, which confers invisibility. Bilbo follows Gollum to the surface and evades the goblins guarding the gate.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
How does Bilbo know his sword was made by elves?
 
Why is it good that Bilbo lost his matches?
 
How does Gollum guess that Bilbo has his ring?
 
How do the goblins know that someone is at the gate?
 
Which of the dwarves is the most surprised to see Bilbo?
 
Vocabulary
 
subterranean (p. 70)           flummoxed (p. 72)           antiquity (p. 80)
 
unbeknown (p. 71)             chestnut (p. 74)
 
Discussion and Essay Topics
 
How are Bilbo and Gollum alike? Can you call Gollum evil? Discuss the concept that Gollum is the negative side of Bilbo, with which Bilbo must come to terms before he can achieve his identity. (Suggestion: To bring home the concept of the negative side, compare this chapter and Luke Skywalker's descent into the cave during his training by Yoda, in The Empire Strikes Back.)
 
What effect did the ring seem to have on Gollum? How did the loss of the ring affect him? (Note: Because of the enormous popularity of Peter Jackson's films, students may be familiar with the role of the ring in The Lord of the Rings. If so, you may choose to discuss how the events of this chapter foreshadow the role the ring eventually plays.)
 
What skills does Bilbo show in dealing with Gollum?
 
"No great leap for a man, but a leap in the dark" (p. 39). Is "a leap in the dark" actually a "great leap"? Explain your answer. Discuss this quotation with respect to Bilbo's decision not to kill Gollum, and his newfound courage.
 
Should Gollum be considered a sympathetic character? Defend your answer.
 
Critical Commentary:
Plot Structure, Repetition of Motifs, and the Development of the Hero
 
Chapter 5, in which Bilbo successfully crosses the Misty Mountains by his own efforts, marks the turning point in his development. Up to now he's been little more than baggage, as the dwarves often point out; his only accomplishments—finding the key to the trolls' caves and warning Gandalf of the goblin attack—are useful but trivial.
 
The first three pages of Chapter 5 detail Bilbo's transformation. First, he finds the ring, his second and greatest talisman. Slowly he shakes off his initial self-pity and despair, regains his common sense (which includes realizing that his customary means of self-comfort, such as smoking, are inappropriate for this situation), and finally is comforted by the presence of his first talisman, the elvish sword. Facing up to his plight, his final decision—if you can't go back or sideways, then go forward—is typical of the determination and essential optimism that constitute hobbit courage. Tolkien's catalog of Bilbo's skills stresses a hobbit's innate abilities—familiarity with tunnels, good sense of direction, stealth, toughness, and "a fund of wisdom and wise sayings"—with the implication that Bilbo has developed to the point where he can use these skills effectively.

The extent of Bilbo's growth is marked by the repetition of motifs between Bilbo's adventures west (Chapters 2 to 5) and east (Chapters 6 to 9) of the Misty Mountains. The dominant event or setting of each chapter is parallel (attack by enemies; hospitality at an important male's house; attack by enemies; underground capture and escape) and in every case we see Bilbo acting with confidence and effectiveness east of the mountains, but ineptly west of the mountains. In Chapter 2, Bilbo is captured while sneaking around the trolls' campfire and is easily rescued by Gandalf; in Chapter 6, he sneaks into the dwarves' camp undetected and is later rescued from a situation in which even Gandalf is helpless. In Chapter 3, Bilbo relies heavily on Gandalf's advice; in Chapter 7, he behaves prudently and Gandalf names him head of the expedition. In Chapter 4, Bilbo is as imprudent as the dwarves and once more must be rescued by Gandalf and protected by the swords Beater and Biter; in Chapter 8, he is never captured, rescues the dwarves single-handedly, and names his own sword Sting. Finally, Bilbo's ability in Chapter 5 to win the riddle-contest and rescue himself foreshadows his ability in Chapter 9 to outwit a palace full of elves and execute a complex escape plan involving the entire expedition.
 
The third part of the book, the adventures at the Lonely Mountain, repeats many of these motifs, but in a less schematic fashion, as befits the growing complexity of Bilbo's adventure. For example, Bilbo's first trip down the tunnel recalls his actions in the tunnels of the goblins and the Elvenking. Gandalf's outwitting of the trolls and Bilbo's riddle-game with Gollum prepare Bilbo to confront Smaug. His decision to go down the tunnel the third time (p. 223) recalls his determination to go forward in the goblin tunnels (p. 77). These varied experiences prepare Bilbo to deal with increasingly complex moral issues. West of the mountains, Bilbo encounters beings that are purely good (Elrond) or purely evil (goblins and trolls). East of the mountains, the characters are more complicated: Beorn is good but brutish, and the Elvenking is good but overly harsh. Finally, at the Lonely Mountain Bilbo must deal with Smaug's attractive malice, Thorn's intractable greed and pride, and Bard's grim integrity.
 
The larger plot structure of The Hobbit is, much like traditional fantasy, cyclical. As the subtitle There and Back Again suggests, the most common structure for a developmental fantasy is for the hero to begin at home, develop skills during the course of a journey, fulfill his quest, and return home with his understanding increased by his adventures. The Hobbit begins and ends in Bilbo's home with a conversation between Bilbo and Gandalf, and the contrast between these two scenes displays Bilbo's development.
 
Chapter 6: "Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire"
 
Summary
 
Bilbo finds that he is on the east side of the mountains. Using his ring, he enters the dwarves' camp undetected. Bilbo and his group flee down the mountainside but are overtaken at night by goblins and Wargs and trapped in five fir trees in a clearing. The goblins set fire to the trees, but the Eagles of the Misty Mountains rescue the expedition, although as usual Bilbo is almost left behind.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
How does Bilbo know he is on the east side of the Misty Mountains?
    
What is the proverb that Bilbo invents? Try to create a modern proverb with a similar meaning.
 
Why does the Lord of the Eagles notice the expedition?
 
Why won't the Eagles fly near where men live? What do you think Tolkien is suggesting about mankind's place in his imagined world? Are men the wisest, noblest, or most powerful beings? If not, who is?

Vocabulary
 
sorrel (p. 97)                        bracken (p. 98)               proverb (p. 99)
 
marjoram (p. 97)                   larch (p. 100)
 
Discussion and Essay Topics

Do you think Bilbo would try to rescue the dwarves if they were still inside the mountains? Explain what might motivate his actions. Would they try to rescue him? What does this suggest about the character traits of dwarves?
 
Why doesn't Bilbo tell the dwarves about his ring? Do you consider this lying? What would you have done in the same situation? What do you think might have happened if he had told them about the ring?
 
At this point in the story, how much of an asset does Gandalf seem to be? Do his actions seem consistent with the way you think wizards operate? Why doesn't Gandalf do more to "save the day"? Are his powers limited, or is he intentionally refraining from using them? Defend your answer.
 
Chapter 7: "Queer Lodgings"
 
Summary
 
The Eagles carry the expedition to the Carrock, a rock in the middle of the Great River. From there the expedition heads to the house of Beorn, a skin-changer fierce toward his enemies but gentle with animals. Gandalf wins Beorn's hospitality by introducing the dwarves in small groups while he tells the story of their adventures. After two nights at Beorn's house, the expedition receives his advice and departs for Mirkwood. At the forest-gate, Gandalf leaves the expedition.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
What is a skin-changer?
    
What does Beorn eat (p. 116)? Why do you think he chooses to eat this way? What does it suggest about his inherent character traits?
 
How does Gandalf get Beorn to shelter thirteen dwarves?
 
What eventually interests Beorn about the dwarves' tales? What group(s) of creatures does Beorn seem to dislike?
 
What is the most important advice that Beorn and Gandalf give about Mirkwood? Do you think this advice will be followed? Defend your answer.
 
Vocabulary
 
carrock (p. 115)                  dale (p. 117)                  withered (p. 126)
 
appalling (p. 115)                trestle (p. 125)               stark (p. 127)
       
tippet (p. 116)                    mead (p. 126)                 hart (p. 135)
 
Discussion and Essay Topics
 
Compare the expedition's arrival at Beorn's house with the Unexpected Party of the first chapter. Note that now Bilbo is in on Gandalf's plot. While both hosts have to be cajoled into accepting the arrival of the travelling party, it is for very different reasons. What are they?
 
Discuss Beorn's character. What are his virtues? Why is he suspicious of strangers? What about him seems vicious? In what ways is he gentle? How does Bilbo come to understand him?
 
Compare the descriptions of Beorn and his house with various classic versions of the story of
Beauty and the Beast. How is Beorn similar to this archetype? How is he different?
 
Why is it necessary to the story that Gandalf leave the expedition?

Chapter 8: "Flies and Spider"
 
Summary
 
Mirkwood is dark and unpleasant. The expedition runs low on food, water, and hope. Bombur falls into the enchanted stream and sleeps for four days. When Balin sees firelight off the path, the dwarves and Bilbo go toward it. They are scattered when they interrupt the elven feast. Giant spiders capture the dwarves. Bilbo rescues them and slays many spiders, but Thorin is captured by the Wood-elves.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
What do the dwarves shoot with their bows?
 
When Bilbo climbs the tree, why doesn't he see an end to the forest?
       
What does Bombur dream of?
 
What does Bilbo name his sword? What does his decision to name his sword reveal about the heroic qualities he is developing?

How does Bilbo rescue the dwarves? What skills does he use to defeat the spiders?
 
Vocabulary
 
inquisitive (p. 140)           disquieting (p. 147)          warrant (p. 157)
 
hind (p. 146)                   commons (p. 150)           quoits (p. 158)

vexed (p. 146)                 sawn (p. 152)                 gloaming (p. 168)
   
accursed (p. 148)             loathsome (p. 157)           thongs (p. 169)
    
Discussion and Essay Topics
 
What are the unattractive features of Mirkwood? Do you think the forest is evil? Explain your answer.
 
Discuss the enchanted stream. Does it remind you of objects in other myths, legends, or folktales? Why are they to be avoided? Why do characters tend to fall victim to the objects in spite of being warned against them? What symbolic purpose do you think these sorts of enchanted objects might serve?
 
After Gandalf leaves, who becomes the leader of the expedition? Who do you think should have become the leader? Defend your answer.
 
What makes the expedition lose hope? Why is their despair unjustified?
 
What heroic acts does Bilbo perform?
 
Why does Bilbo tell the dwarves about his magic ring? What does his reluctance to do so tell us?
 
Discuss the ancient feud between dwarves and elves. Whose fault is it? If neither side is in the right, how can you tell the difference between good and evil? Why do you think Tolkien creates this sort of ambiguity? What does it reveal about the author's purpose?
 
Chapter 9: "Barrels Out of Bond"
 
Summary
 
Lost in Mirkwood, the dwarves are captured by the Wood-elves and imprisoned because they will not explain their mission. Bilbo, invisible, follows them into the underground palace of the Elvenking. He finds Thorin and later discovers the water-gate, the palace's delivery entrance. When the chief guard becomes drunk, Bilbo steals his keys, releases the dwarves, and hides the dwarves in empty barrels. The barrels are thrown into the river to float to Lake-town; Bilbo rides atop one barrel.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
Why, where, and how are the dwarves imprisoned? Why wasn't Bilbo imprisoned as well?
 
How does Bilbo get in and out of the palace?
 
How many entrances does the palace have?
 
Where is the elves' wine made?
 
Vocabulary
 
portcullis (p. 171)                potent (p. 173)           toss-pot (p. 177)
    
flagon (p. 173)                    vintage (p. 173)         kine (p. 178)
          
Discussion and Essay Topics
 
Why does the Elvenking imprison the dwarves? Why won't Thorin tell the Elvenking what his mission is? What characteristics does his refusal reveal about him? Do you think these characteristics are true for all dwarves, or are they just true for Thorin?
 
Is Bilbo a burglar now? Throughout the book, does he have any ethical dilemmas about stealing? How is the connotation or the word burglar different from the connotation of thief? Is Bilbo's type of burglary different from stealing? Explain your answer.
 
The escape plan is completely Bilbo's. How good is it? Can you think of an alternate plan? How much does it depend on luck? Does he deserve this luck?
 
At this point in the book do you think the dwarves have treated Bilbo fairly? Why do you think Bilbo is loyal to them? What does his loyalty reveal about his character?
 
Chapter 10: "A Warm Welcome"
 
Summary
 
Wet and bedraggled, the expedition arrives at Lake-town, a trading town of men. They are welcomed by the Master, and the townspeople recall prophecies of the downfall of the dragon and the consequent enrichment of the town. After two weeks of rest the expedition departs for the Lonely Mountain.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
What are the connotations of the word master? What does the fact that the town's leader is called "Master" rather than "King" or "Mayor" or "Governor" suggest about the way he rules?
 
Why does the Master welcome the expedition?
 
What is the history of the relationship between the dwarves and the men?
 
Why are the dwarves happy? Why is Bilbo unhappy?
 
What does the Elvenking think will happen to the dwarves?
 
What is the Master's reaction when Thorin announces his departure?
 
Vocabulary

ominous (p. 190)                gammer (p. 194)            enmity (p. 197)
 
promontory (p. 191)            vagabond (p. 196)
 
Discussion and Essay Topics
 
"Some sang too that Thrór and Thráin would come back one day and gold would flow in rivers through mountain gates, and all that land would be filled with new song and new laughter. But this pleasant legend did not much affect their daily business" (p. 192). Discuss the history of Lake-town and the beliefs of its inhabitants. What does it mean that they do not take their legends seriously?

Compare the attitudes of the men of Lake-town, the Master, and the Elvenking to Thorin's mission. Who is reasonable? Who is silly? Then consider Bilbo's attitude. Keeping in mind that elves are renowned for wisdom, how wise is Bilbo?
 
Does Thorin seem to be changing as he gets closer and closer to the mountain? How?
 
Chapter 11: "On the Doorstep"
 
Summary
 
The expedition finds the Side-door but cannot open it, and they all become gloomy. One evening Bilbo hears a thrush cracking snails and realizes that this is the sign that the door will open. He calls the dwarves, and Thorin opens the door with his key.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
Why won't the men of Lake-town stay with the dwarves?
 
Where does the expedition make each of their three camps?
 
What causes the door to appear? Should the dwarves have predicted this event?
 
Why didn't they?
 
Vocabulary
 
disembarked (p. 202)             waning (p. 203)                lintel (p. 206)
 
Discussion and Essay Topics
 
Create a detailed map (or model) of the Lonely Mountain. Mark the
appearance, vegetation, etc., of each area and the events that occur there.
 
In what way does Bilbo show that he has more spirit left than the dwarves?
 
Chapter 12: "Inside Information"
 
Summary
 
Bilbo enters the Side-door and, overcoming his fear, goes down a tunnel to Smaug's lair. Overwhelmed by the splendor of the dragon-hoard, he steals a large cup and escapes. The theft arouses Smaug, who goes through the Front Gate, attacks the expedition on the mountainside, and drives them into the tunnel. Bilbo volunteers to explore the lair again. This time he has a perilous conversation with Smaug, during which he sees an unarmored patch on the dragon's breast. Smaug later attacks their camp, but thanks to Bilbo's forewarning the dwarves are safe, although trapped, inside the tunnel.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
Who goes partway down the tunnel with Bilbo?
 
What does Bilbo take from the hoard?
 
Bilbo quotes two of his father's sayings. What are they?
 
Who is the real leader of the expedition?
 
What about Bilbo puzzles Smaug?
 
What is the most important thing Bilbo learns from Smaug?
 
What proverb does Bilbo invent?
 
What is the Arkenstone?
 
Vocabulary
 
smouldering (p. 220)       impenetrable (p. 226)       stealth (p. 232)
 
grievous (p. 224)            waistcoat (p. 226)
 
cartage (p. 225)              foreboding (p. 229)
 
Discussion and Essay Topics

"Some [dwarves] are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don't expect too much" (p. 213). What can Bilbo expect from the dwarves? What shouldn't he expect?
 
"Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did . . . he fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait" (p. 215). According to this passage, what is true courage? What abilities and character traits has Bilbo demonstrated so far? How do his earlier adventures prepare him for his confrontation with Smaug? Can you relate this quote to your own life?
 
Is it wise to steal the cup? Why does Bilbo do it?
 
Describe the characteristics of dragons. (Note: Begin with terms such as greedy, wily, hostile, and riddle-loving, and build to more severe terms such as vengeful, treacherous, fond of flattery, and breeders of distrust and dissension.) What is the dragon-spell? Why are dwarves so susceptible to it? (Note: In The Hobbit the traditional motif of the cursed dragon-hoard is reimagined as the idea that the curse is not so much inherent to the objects, but rather treasure brings out the evil and foolish side of dwarves, elves, and men.) In this and the following chapters, trace the changing effects of the treasure on the dwarves and on Bilbo.
 
Explain the names that Bilbo gives himself when speaking with Smaug: "I come from under the hill . . . am the clue finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I was chosen for the lucky number," etc. (p. 223). How does each name relate to the story of his adventure?
 
The use of epithets is a characteristic of epic poetry. Explain what Tolkien may be trying to convey by Bilbo's use of epithets to "name" himself. In what other ways does Bilbo remind you of Odysseus in Homer's The Odyssey?
 
Examine the possible etymology of the name "Arkenstone." What associations and connotations do you think Tolkien intended when he named the stone?
 
Chapter 13: "Not at Home"
 
Summary
 
Encouraged by Bilbo, the dwarves go down into the hall and find Smaug gone. Bilbo finds and hides the Arkenstone. The dwarves celebrate their recovery of the treasure. Bilbo reminds them that Smaug is still a peril, and they move to a watchtower on a spur of the mountain.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
What does Thorin give Bilbo?
 
Which hall leads to the Front Gate?
 
Why do the dwarves leave the underground halls?
 
Vocabulary
 
pallid (p. 237)                            perpetually (p. 245)
 
figured (p. 240)                          dominion (p. 245)
 
Discussion and Essay Topics
 
"Anyway the only way out is down" (p. 235). What earlier statement by Bilbo does this echo? When does Bilbo's courage assert itself most?
 
Why does Bilbo keep the Arkenstone? How does he justify his decision to withhold its discovery from Thorin? Do you agree that Bilbo has a right to the stone? What does the fact that Bilbo is willing to give up gold and jewels to have it suggest about the worth of the Arkenstone? Can you think of any traditional myths or parables about similar objects that Tolkien may be alluding to? What might be the symbolic importance of the stone?
 
Chapter 14: "Fire and Water"
 
Summary
 
Smaug flies to avenge himself on the men of Lake-town. He is destroying the town when the thrush tells Bard the Bowman, a descendant of the former Lords of Dale, about the bare, vulnerable spot on Smaug's breast. Bard slays Smaug and directs his people's efforts to feed and shelter themselves, although he plans eventually to seize Smaug's hoard. When the Elvenking hears of Smaug's death, he sets out to seize the hoard himself, but goes instead to Lake-town when he hears of its distress. Eleven days after Smaug's death, a combined army of men and elves marches on the Lonely Mountain.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
Why does Smaug decide to destroy Lake-town? Whose "fault" is it that he decides to seek revenge on the Lake-men?
 
Who is the guard "with a grim voice" (p. 247)?
 
Why do the men of Esgaroth destroy the bridges?
 
Why can Bard understand the thrush (see pp. 250–51)?
 
Why are the people of Esgaroth angry with Thorin? Do you think they have a right to be angry? Do you think Thorin owes them anything?
 
Vocabulary
 
drear (p. 247)            laden (p. 249)              eminent (p. 253)
 
foiled (p. 248)           prophesying (p. 250)       benefactor (p. 253)
 
quench (p. 249)         gledes (p. 251)            recompense (pp. 253–54)
 
Discussion and Essay Topics

Characterize Bard and the Master. Who speaks more convincingly? What does their appearance suggest about them? Explain the reason for Bard's pessimism. Who has more courage? Who displays more leadership? Do you believe that some people are natural leaders? Can this ability be inherited?
 
Explain the significance of Bard's name. What could Tolkien be alluding to? What is Tolkien showing he values by naming such a noble and heroic character "Bard"?
 
Why does the Elvenking set out from his halls? Why does he go to Esgaroth? What does this tell you about the value he places on treasure?
 
Chapter 15: "The Gathering of the Clouds"
 
Summary
 
Summoned by the thrush, Roac, a raven of an ancient family friendly to the dwarves, tells the dwarves of the death of Smaug and the gathering of men and elves. Roac advises Thorin to deal with Bard, but Thorin sends for aid from his cousin Dain and fortifies the Front Gate. Thorin denies that Bard has a right to any of the treasure, and Bard declares the mountain besieged. Bilbo is sick of the whole business.

Comprehension Questions
 
How did Ravenhill get its name?
 
How old is Roac?
 
When does Thorin first name himself King under the Mountain?
 
Vocabulary
 
carrion (p. 257)              decrepit (p. 258)                      fells (p. 263)
 
coveted (p. 258)             amends (p. 259)
 
Discussion and Essay Topics
 
From the very beginning, Bilbo has assumed that the climax of the adventure would be the recovery of the treasure. Then he realizes that Smaug must also be dealt with. Now he finds that even Smaug's death does not end the adventure. If Bilbo had known from the beginning what would happen, do you think he would have still agreed to the adventure? Have the complications made him more or less enthusiastic and confident? What do you think Tolkien is trying to say about the purpose of trials and tribulations in a person's life?
 
Why won't Thorin deal with Bard and the Elvenking? Evaluate Bard's three topics for discussion (p. 265) and Thorin's answer. Do you think Bard's requests are fair and just? Is Thorin's answer fair and just?
 
How has the treasure changed Thorin?
 
Chapter 16: "A Thief in the Night"
 
Summary
 
Despite Roac's counsel, Thorin prepares for war. To break the impasse, Bilbo gives the Arkenstone to Bard and the Elvenking. He meets Gandalf in their camp. Bilbo returns to the mountain despite the Elvenking's warning about Thorin's anger.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
How does Bilbo leave the mountain without being caught?
 
What is Bilbo's plan to avoid war? Is it a good plan?
 
What old friend does Bilbo meet in the camp?
 
Vocabulary
 
bade (p. 268)
 
Discussion and Essay Topics
 
Why does Thorin reject Roac's advice?
 
Just as the moment in the tunnel (p. 215) is Bilbo's bravest, giving up the Arkenstone is his noblest. Why does he do it? Would any other character in the story be capable of this? What does it say about Bilbo's values and ethics? Why does he return to the Mountain? Would you have returned to the dwarves or stayed with Bard and the elves?
 
Chapter 17: "The Clouds Burst"
 
Summary
 
Thorin promises to give to Bard Bilbo's share of the treasure in exchange for the Arkenstone. Dain's army arrives before the exchange is made, and Bard refuses to let it pass into the Lonely Mountain. The two sides are about to battle when a vast army of goblins and Wargs attacks both. Dwarves, elves, and men unite in the face of their common enemy, and the Battle of Five Armies begins. At first the good forces trap the goblins and Wargs between two shoulders of the mountain, but they in turn are attacked from above by goblins climbing over the mountain. Thorin sallies forth from the Front Gate and rallies his side, but the bodyguard of Bolg, the goblin leader, blocks his advance and Thorin is surrounded. Bilbo does not fight, but stays, invisible, near the Elvenking. He mourns the coming defeat and death of his friends, but then he sees that the Eagles are coming. At that moment he is knocked unconscious by a stone.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
What terms do Thorin and Bard come to?
 
What army makes the first attack?
 
Name the armies in the Battle of Five Armies.
 
What stops Thorin's advance?
 
Where does Bilbo take his final stand? Why?
 
Vocabulary
 
hauberk (p. 278)                    precipice (p. 284)            smote (p. 287)
 
mattocks (p. 279)                  scimitar (p. 284)
    
reconciliation (p. 280)             eyries (p. 287)
 
Discussion and Essay Topics
 
Consider the Elvenking's statement: "Long will I tarry, ere I begin this war for gold." Do you think these are wise words? Is gold worth fighting over? Defend your answer.
 
Trace Thorin's moral degeneration. What causes him to change? In what ways does he end up being similar to Smaug? Why do you think he is so easily corrupted?
 
Before the arrival of the goblins and wargs, who are the "good guys" and who are the "bad guys" in the standoff around the mountain? How does your opinion change when the goblins arrive?
 
Which would be a greater tragedy: the killing of the armies of men, elves, and dwarves by the goblins, or a war between men, elves, and dwarves? Explain your answer.
 
Chapter 18: "The Return Journey"
 
Summary
 
Bilbo comes to his senses the next day and is brought to the camp. On his deathbed, Thorin makes amends with Bilbo. The outcome of the battle is retold: Beorn rescued the wounded Thorin and then killed Bolg, but the battle was not won until the Eagles cleared the mountainside of goblins. Dain, the new King under the Mountain, makes a generous settlement with Bard. Bilbo and Gandalf begin the return journey and part, in turn, from the dwarves, the Elvenking, and Beorn.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
Why isn't Bilbo found until the day after the battle?
 
Who turned the tide of the battle?
 
What gifts does Dain give?
    
What becomes of Beorn in later years?
 
Vocabulary
 
literally (p. 288)             mustering (p. 291)
 
amend (p. 290)              trackless (p. 292)
 
Discussion and Essay Topics
 
"There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage . . . and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world" (p. 290). Discuss Bilbo's character now that his adventure is completed. Why does he refuse the treasure? Why is he weary of his adventure? How has he proven himself to be a hero in spite of his lack of traditionally "heroic" attributes like strength and assertiveness?
 
Examine the final views we get of Thorin on his deathbed and in his tomb. Is his quest fulfilled? Why is his death necessary? What lesson does he learn? Does he deserve our respect or admiration? Is it right to bury him with the Arkenstone?
 
Examine in detail the various demands and offers made by Bard and the dwarves (and the elves). How does the final solution match what each party wants and deserves? What is the difference between Dain's gift and Thorin's promises?
 
Chapter 19: "The Last Stage"
 
Summary
 
Bilbo and Gandalf arrive at Rivendell, where Gandalf confers with Elrond. Bilbo takes the treasure from the troll hoard. Finally Bilbo returns home just in time to save his hole and belongings from being auctioned off. He settles down contentedly, although he finds that he is no longer considered respectable. In an epilogue, Balin and Gandalf visit him several years later.
 
Comprehension Questions
 
Where was Gandalf while the expedition crossed Mirkwood?
 
How long do Bilbo and Gandalf stay at Rivendell?
 
Why do they walk at the end of their journey?
 
Why are Bilbo's goods being auctioned?
 
What changes does Balin notice in Bilbo?
 
What happened to the old Master of Lake-town?
 
Vocabulary
 
lore (p. 299)                               effects (p. 303)
 
Discussion and Essay Topic
 
Look at the elves' last songs (pp. 297–98, 299–300). What can you infer about the character traits and values of elves from their song?
 
"'My dear Bilbo!' [Gandalf] said, 'Something is the matter with you! You are not the hobbit that you were'" (p. 302). What does Bilbo gain from his adventure? (Don't forget to include the ability and desire to make poetry.) What is the difference in the way his home is dear to him now compared to the way it was dear to him at the beginning of the book? Is it necessary to leave a place before you can truly appreciate it? Can you relate Bilbo's experience to your own life in any way?
 
At the end of the book, Gandalf makes the following comment: "You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?" (p. 305). Do you agree with Bilbo or with Gandalf? If "mere luck" is not responsible for Bilbo's success, what is?
 
Bilbo is pleased that he is "only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!" (p. 305). Why is this a comforting perspective? How does viewing oneself as a small part of a larger whole impact the way a person interacts with the world around him?

Why didn't Tolkien just end the book after the battle? What is the purpose of devoting two chapters to Bilbo's return? How do these chapters help develop the character and/or important themes?
 
Critical Commentary: Bilbo's Luck
 
Bilbo is originally chosen as the "lucky number," so that Thorin and Company will not be an unlucky thirteen. During the course of the expedition, Gandalf remarks several times that Bilbo is extraordinarily lucky. Some of his luck seems to be the deserved reward for Bilbo's courage and determination. For example, after attempting to find his own way out of the goblins' tunnel, confronting Gollum, and evading the orc-guard, Bilbo certainly deserves to come out on the east side of the mountains. Similarly, after escaping from the spiders, the expedition needs the luck of being captured by the elves, especially since it turns out that their straying from the path was necessary, because the east end of the road was abandoned. Other lucky events, notably Bilbo's finding of the troll's key and the ring, are necessary to
give Bilbo talismans that enable him to confront enemies who are larger, more powerful, and more numerous than himself. In general, then, Bilbo's luck should be seen as a plot device that reinforces the theme of Bilbo's growing self-awareness and self-confidence.
 
However, some of the fortunate events in The Hobbit seem to involve much more than one hobbit's personal luck. Four events in particular should be considered. First is the expedition's rescue from the burning fir trees by the Eagles at a point when even Gandalf expects to die. Second is the expedition's arrival at the Side-door in one of the very few years when Durin's Day occurs. Third, although Bilbo deserves the credit for discovering Smaug's bare spot, the combination of the bare spot itself, the talking thrush, and a heroic descendant of Girion of Dale extends far beyond Bilbo's own luck. Finally, after Bilbo's attempt at mediation fails and Dain attacks Bard and the Elvenking, only the extraordinary event of the goblin attack restores moral harmony.
 
Where Bilbo's personal luck is related to the uses of the fantasy presented by Bettelheim, the larger luck that surrounds him can best be explained, in Tolkien's term, as a series of eucatastrophes that illustrate the workings of Providence. Gandalf's final comments about prophecies and luck, ending with his comment that Bilbo is "only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all" (p. 305), are the closest Tolkien comes to disclosing this providential structure in The Hobbit. Bilbo's joyous and pragmatic acceptance of this structure—his recognition that he is capable of great deeds but nonetheless dependent on the protection of God—is one of the two spiritual insights required of dwellers in Middle-earth. (The other, a selfless love of the Creator and the Creation, is usually measured in terms of "elvishness." Bilbo, attracted to elves from the very beginning and eventually named elf-friend, achieves this insight very easily.)
 
The proof of this providential pattern lies outside The Hobbit. The identity of the Eagles as messengers of God (as well as the significance of their coming out of the west in the Battle of Five Armies) is made clear in The Silmarillion; the importance of Bilbo's decision not to kill Gollum is a major motif of The Lord of The Rings; and the geopolitical consequences of the death of Smaug are best explained in "The Quest of Erebor," one of the fragments in Unfinished Tales. Yet the basic principle can be seen quite clearly within The Hobbit. Although on the surface it is stronger than good, evil always provides the means of its own defeat: Gollum's ring aids Bilbo, and Smaug, in his arrogance, reveals his bare patch. Triumphing over evil requires not prowess but fortitude, humility, hope, and unshakable virtue. Gollum is corrupted by malice, and the dragon-spell turns Thorin's pride to arrogance, deceit, and greed. But Bilbo and Bard, tutored by Gandalf, the Elvenking, and their own hearts, learn the true value of treasure and hatred, and joining together against evil, they destroy it.

BEYOND THE BOOK

Research Questions
 
Tolkien includes traditional creatures such as elves, dwarves, dragons, trolls, goblins, and wizards in his story. Choose one of these creatures and research its appearance in world myths, legends, and folktales. Create a multimedia presentation that answers the following questions: What specific tales do you think inspired Tolkien when he created his creatures? In what ways did he transform the source material of the traditional stories and legends? What characteristics of the creatures did Tolkien emphasize and what did he omit? What do his changes reveal about his values and his purpose in creating Middle-earth?
 
Explore the significance of birds in The Hobbit. What specific types of birds play a role in the story? Specific birds (for example, the Eagles) have heavy symbolic significance in world legends and mythology. Research the source materials that Tolkien may have used to create this story. Why do you think he chose these specific birds to play the roles that they did? Explain the historical and symbolic significance behind Tolkien's use of birds.
 
Analyze the role of Gandalf in The Hobbit. Pay particular attention to his presence in terms of the way the book is structured. What is particularly significant about his presence at the beginning and end of the story? At what points does he leave? At what points does he reappear? How powerful is Gandalf? Research the source materials (especially Norse mythology and Western theology) that Tolkien may have used to create Gandalf.
 
Examine The Hobbit as a "prequel" to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. How does reading The Hobbit enrich your understanding and experience of the trilogy? In what specific ways does Tolkien use The Hobbit to "set up" later events? Which story is more satisfying? Explain your answer.
 
Analyze the motif of the hero's journey in The Hobbit. In what ways does Bilbo Baggins experience the steps of an archetypal hero journey? Does Bilbo fit the description of an archetypal hero? Compare this story to another classical or modern quest narrative. How is Bilbo similar to other heroes in literature? How is he different?
 
Examine the treatment of race in The Hobbit. Is it fair to suggest that all members of a certain group (dwarves, trolls, goblins, elves, etc.) share the same characteristics? How does this treatment of ethnic groups reflect the cultural perspective of the first half of the twentieth century? How might the book be different if it were written today?
 
Analyze the book in relation to film adaptations of The Hobbit (the Bass/Rankin 1977 animated version and Peter Jackson's 2012 live-action release). How do the film adaptations compare to the book? What do each of the directors choose to emphasize? What do they omit? How do their directorial decisions impact the story? Which version did you find more "faithful" to Tolkien's vision? Which version did you enjoy more?
 

Common Core State Standards
 
The Hobbit meets the standard for text complexity for grades 9 and 10. A list of standards used to create this guide are listed below:
 
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas—Anchor Standard
 
• Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the author's take.
 
Key Ideas and Details
 
• Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
 
• Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
 
• Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
 
Craft and Structure
 
• Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone)
 
• Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
 
• Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.
 
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
 
• Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment.
• Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work.
 
Writing
 
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
 
• Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
 
• Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience's knowledge of the topic.
 
• Use appropriate and varied transitions to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
• Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic.
 
• Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
 
• Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic).
 
Research to Build and Present Knowledge
 
• Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating
understanding of the subject under investigation.
 
• Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
 
• Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
 
• Apply grades 9–10 reading standards to literature (e.g., "Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work").
 

OTHER TITLES OF INTEREST

The following books represent the best critical works about Tolkien and fantasy, as well as related works by Tolkien.
 
Books by Tolkien:
 
The Lord of the Rings, 3 volumes (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King; Ballantine Books), relates the adventures of Frodo Baggins, Bilbo's nephew and heir, and focuses on Bilbo's Ring, which is revealed to be the source of the power of the Necromancer. In many ways a reworking of the plot and themes of The Hobbit, the trilogy is Tolkien's masterpiece and one of the greatest literary fantasies, although the first three hundred pages are rather slow reading. The Silmarillion (Ballantine Books) presents the creation of the world and the early history of the Middle-earth.
 
Unfinished Tales (Ballantine Books) contains posthumous fragments. The largest, the "Narn
I Hin Hurin," when read in conjunction with "Of Turin Turambar" (in The Silmarillion),
is a compelling tale of steadfastness in the face of evil, the dooming of rash pride, and the
cunning of dragons.
 
Books About Tolkien:
 
Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien: A Biography (Ballantine Books) is a sensitive study that traces the personal development of Tolkien's mythic creation and suggests the emotional commitment required to make it a masterpiece.
 
Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth (Ballantine Books) is the authoritative reference work for Tolkien's fiction.
 
Paul Kocher, Master of the Middle-Earth (Ballantine Books) provides a graceful and insightful critical view of Tolkien's fiction. Kocher's chapter on The Hobbit is well worth reading.
 
Ruth Noel, The Mythology of Middle-Earth (Houghton Mifflin) is a convenient summary of the characteristics of key themes, races, places, and things in Middle-earth, suggesting their relation to (and origins in) European mythology.
Books About Fantasy:
 
Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment (Vintage) is a profound and compassionate testimonial to the value of fairy tales for child development.
 
J. R. R. Tolkien, "On Fairy Stories" (in The Tolkien Reader) is the seminal literary study of fantasy, stressing its emotional validity and spiritual rewards.
 
Books by and about Tolkien published by Random House, Inc.:
 
The Hobbit (0-345-33968-1)
The Fellowship of the Ring (0-345-33970-3)
The Two Towers (0-345-33971-1)
The Return of the King (0-345-33973-8)
The Silmarillion (0-345-32581-8)
The Tolkien Reader (0-345-34506-1)
Smith of Wootton Major & Farmer Giles of Ham (0-345-33606-2)
The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth by Robert Foster (0-345-32436-6)
Unfinished Tales (0-345-35711-6)
 
Helpful Links

Full text of Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories”:
http://bjorn.kiev.ua/librae/Tolkien/Tolkien_On_Fairy_Stories.html     
 
The Tolkien Society: http://www.tolkiensociety.org/
 
A comprehensive list of links to various versions of the Beauty and the Beast story:
http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0425c.html
 
A basic introduction to Norse Mythology: http://www.viking-mythology.com/
 
Interactive Hero’s Journey tool from Read Write Think:
http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/herosjourney/   



ABOUT THIS GUIDE

This guide was written in 1981 by Robert Foster. It has been updated and revised by Amy Jurskis to now include the Common Core State Standards.
 
Robert Foster is the author of The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth. Foster has taught Tolkien, science fiction, and fantasy at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Foster holds a BA in Linguistics from Columbia University and an MA and a PhD in English and Medieval Literature from the University of Pennsylvania.
 
Amy Jurskis is the author of several teaching guides. A former department chair for language arts in a title-one public school in Atlanta, she currently teaches English at Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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